Eighteen Days Late With The News
Shortfall on deficit reporting: On June 18, several Maine news operations produced stories on the discovery of $12.5 million in red ink in the state Department of Health and Human Services budget. The MaineToday Media newspapers, and Maine Public Radio both carried stories that made it sound as if the budget problem had just been uncovered.
The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee was first made aware of the financial problems at the DHHS MaineCare program at a meeting on the afternoon of May 31 – a meeting no reporters bothered to cover. According to a Republican staffer (who called the matter to my attention) and a Democratic legislator (who confirmed the account), the problem was laid out in detail for the committee a full eighteen days before the news media noticed. The June 18 meeting was actually called to provide committee members with an update.
To be fair to the thinly staffed State House press corps, that meeting was held the same day the Legislature was wrapping up its 2012 session by considering vetoes and other last-minute matters. There was a lot going on in the Capitol complex. In addition, Mal Leary, veteran proprietor of the Capitol News Service and someone who is religious in his monitoring of budget matters, was out of action, recovering from a serious illness.
Nevertheless, missing this news was a serious collective oversight that calls into question what else the public isn’t being told about the functioning of state government. With both MaineToday and the Bangor Daily News beefing up their reporting staffs in recent weeks, it seems fair to ask why more resources aren’t being devoted to what’s going on in Augusta, even if it means fewer cutesy stories on renaming the soft-shell lobster or lesbian figure skaters.
Somebody needs to reset priorities.
Size matters: The Portland Press Herald’s graphics staff produced a useful chart for the June 20 paper explaining the ten options for increasing tolls on the Maine Turnpike.
Useful, that is, if you saw it in print. The online version was too small for the aging eyes of this reader and at least two others who complained to me. Clicking on the icon that was supposed to expand the chart actually caused it to get smaller.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.